Hawaiian Home With a Galactic Theater
The owners of this Hawaiian beach house enjoy one-button activation of all things important, including a theater that’s out of this world.
March 07, 2011 by Lisa Montgomery

There are a couple of ways to play Blu-ray movies on more than one TV in your house. One approach is to rack up your player, along with other sources like a cable box and media server, then put them in a central location in your house, connect them to some kind of distribution hub, and run wiring to every display. The other option: Equip each TV with its own set of sources. End of story.

Although super-savvy when it comes to home electronics, the owner of this roughly 10,000-square-foot contemporary stunner in Honolulu, Hawaii, opted for the latter design. Why? “It’s just a whole lot simpler,” says Mark Gleicher of Modern Home Systems in San Diego, Calif. “His kids tend to play the same DVDs over and over, so he thought it would be easier if they were able to put in their movies right at the TV instead of having to go to a utility room to load in a DVD.”

The first setup, while definitely more high-tech, would have also required the installation and programming of sophisticated switching and distribution equipment to preserve the quality of the high-def images as they traveled over a network of cabling. That’s not to say the crew at Modern Home Systems wasn’t up for the challenge. The company has designed and installed numerous whole-house audio and video systems for other clients. “These homeowners just wanted the video part of their house to be as straightforward as possible,” says Gleicher. “To them that meant having a local system at each of the home’s six flat-panel TVs.”

Nipped in the Bud
It also meant having a separate remote control for each setup—also straightforward but not completely bulletproof. Gleicher explains: Should a family member lose the remote for the living room TV or mistake it for the clicker that runs the system in the master bedroom, he or she wouldn’t be able to use that living room entertainment system until they found the right remote. This never became an issue, however. Before any of the entertainment equipment was installed, Modern Home Systems swapped the original remotes for portable 6-inch touchscreen-style controllers from Crestron. Modern Home Systems could have programmed these touchpanels to offer the family all sorts of fancy control options, but again, the goal was keeping it simple. “They touch the WATCH DVD button and that’s it,” says Gleicher. The TV, DVD player and surround-sound equipment power up, the components set to the correct inputs and the DVD starts playing. It’s the same no matter which Crestron remote they pick up or which TV they’re going to watch.

Control: Crestron
Displays: Pioneer and Samsung
Speakers: Artison, Revel, Sonance and Sunfire
Theater Screen: Stewart Filmscreen
Projector: Runco
Surveillance: Nuvico and Pelco
Heating and Cooling: Mitsubishi
Lighting: Lutron
A/V Components: Integra, Lexicon

This uniformity of control and one-button access to movies shortened the learning curve dramatically for the family, which is particularly helpful when you travel as much as they do, according to Gleicher. “They didn’t want to have to relearn how to use their system after being away from the house for a month or have to pull out an instruction manual in order for their guests to watch a movie.”

There was just one last hurdle to clear in the design of these local, independent entertainment setups: hiding each TV’s connected Blu-ray player and satellite receiver. The family requested that the only visible technology in each room be a flat, wall-mounted TV. The Blu-ray player and satellite receiver would have to go elsewhere, where they wouldn’t be seen. In most cases, the equipment was tucked inside a nearby cabinet and wiring fished above the ceiling and down the wall to the TV. The speakers are undetectable, too, having been recessed into the walls and ceilings during the home’s construction then painted to match the decor.

Capitalizing on Capabilities
Not about to sell the Crestron system—or the family—short, Modern Home Systems integrated lights, thermostats, surveillance cameras, iPods and other components into the control scheme. From the same touchpanels they use to cue DVDs, the family can brighten and dim the lights, adjust the temperature, bring up a view from surveillance cameras onto a TV screen and select a piece of music from a docked iPod to play through any and all of the home’s 58 interior and exterior Sonance speakers.

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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